Audrey Santo is a girl from Worcester, Massachusetts who it is claimed may have miraculous powers. For those who believe that Audrey, born in 1983, has supernatural powers, what follows is the story of how she gained them. In 1987 the girl, then aged three, fell into her family's swimming pool. She nearly drowned, and hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) caused severe brain damage. Since then Audrey has been unable to speak or move. Doctors say she is in a coma, but her mother Linda believes otherwise, that she has awareness of her environment.
A few months after the accident, her devoutly Catholic mother took Audrey to Medjugorje, now in Bosnia-Herzegovina and then a part of Yugoslavia. Believers say that apparitions of the Virgin Mary regularly appear in the village to give messages to the world, and many people travel there to pray to her. Audrey's mother hoped the 1988 trip would lead to her daughter being cured, but this did not happen. When the Mother of God appeared to Audrey, her mother says, the little girl rather than being cured agreed to become a "Victim Soul", a person who sacrifices his or her own health, material possessions or happiness to relieve the sins of the world. They follow the example of Jesus, who died for our sins, although folklorists also compare it to the ancient practice of sending scapegoats out into the wilderness with the sins of the tribe.
Since her return, Audrey has been associated with a number of miracles: statues bleeding oil, communion wafers oozing blood, statues moving, the Virgin Mary appearing in clouds above the Santos' house, stigmata appearing on Audrey, and the healing of a number of people. Meanwhile, Audrey's own condition has not improved, despite her mother's loving care. She breathes through a respirator and is fed by tube. Her parents split up, her father Stephen blaming himself for the accident and turning to alcohol. In the mid 1990s he served time in jail for robbing a gas station at gunpoint.
Audrey's case was investigated by the local Catholic Church in 2000. They found evidence of God's presence in the love of Audrey's family, and performed careful analysis of the oils, without reaching a conclusion on their origins. They were happy for masses to be held at Audrey's home, but they also cautioned believers not to pray to the girl and only to pray for her and her family. The appearance of oils from statues is a common occurence in purported miracles associated with the Virgin Mary. It is explained by skeptics that when the temperature rises in a room and the statue warms, oils in the statue may soften and flow out. Most of the other occurences connected with Audrey can be explained rationally as products of wishful thinking or chance, but for many Catholics they offer a powerful affirmation of their faith.
- http://www.telegram.com/extra/audrey/index.html - local newspaper reports
- http://www.worcesterdiocese.org/news/communications/releases/audrey.html - report by local Catholic Church
- http://www.smwa.org/Veronica_of_the_Cross/Document_What_is_a_Victim_Soul.htm - what is a Victim Soul?
- http://paranormal.miningco.com/library/weekly/aa020199.htm?pid=2733&cob=home - report from a pro-paranormal journal
- http://www.skepdic.com/victimsoul.html - Skeptic's Dictionary on Victim Souls and Audrey Santo
- http://www.medjugorje.org/ - Medjugorje website